Excluding the territories, the Prairie region has the highest proportion of children aged less than 15 years. At the time of the last census, May 16th, 2006, 19.3% of the residents of the region formed by the three Prairie provinces were less than 15 years old. The proportion of children was above 19% in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, but less than 17% in most other provinces.
The high percentage of children under 15 years in the Prairie provinces stems largely from the fact that those provinces have a higher fertility rate than the rest of Canada. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta currently have a higher average number of children per woman than any other province. Aboriginal populations contributed in no small measure to the higher fertility in the three provinces.
While the age structures of the Prairie provinces share some common features at the younger ages, they also show some significant differences.
With one of the highest fertility rates in the country and a smaller proportion of seniors than its neighbour Saskatchewan, Manitoba became the province with the largest proportion of children in 2006. Its 225,185 children under age 15 made up 19.6% of its population in 2006, slightly higher than the 19.4% recorded for Saskatchewan, which had ranked first since 1991.
Meanwhile, the number and percentage of Manitobans aged 65 and over are rising at a very modest pace compared with the rest of the country. Since 2001, the number of elderly people (161,900 in 2006) increased by only 3.5%, compared with 11.5% in Canada as a whole. Moreover, the proportion of seniors in the population (14.1%) rose by a mere 0.1 percentage point in the five-year period, compared with 0.8 percentage point at the national level. This is probably due to Manitoba's life expectancy, which is lower than that of most other Canadian provinces.
Figure 14 Age pyramid of Manitoba population in 2001 and 2006
Saskatchewan's situation is interesting in that it has both the largest proportion of seniors (15.4%) and one of the largest proportions of children among the provinces (19.4%). This seemingly paradoxical state of affairs is attributable to several factors: higher fertility than any other Canadian province, a life expectancy that was until quite recently one of the highest in the country coupled with substantial losses of young adults migrating to Alberta, all of which tends to reduce the proportion of Saskatchewan residents between the ages of 20 and 40.
Another distinctive characteristic of Saskatchewan is that it has the largest proportion of very elderly people (80 and over) in Canada. In the 2006 Census, one out of 20 Saskatchewan residents was 80 and older. By comparison, only one Albertan in 36 was in that age group. The national average is one in 27.
Figure 15 Age pyramid of Saskatchewan population in 2001 and 2006
Alberta, which is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom and enjoying very rapid population growth due to the influx of many workers from other provinces, differs in that it has the youngest population of the three Prairie provinces. The number of Alberta residents under age 15 declined in every province except Alberta where their population increased by 13,940 persons between the 2001 and 2006 censuses. As well, the proportion of seniors is only 10.7%, a proportion that is far lower than in any other province.
Alberta is also the only province with more men than women. This unique characteristic is due to the fact that more of the large numbers of workers who migrated to Alberta were men and that the province's elderly population (in which women are invariably overrepresented) is relatively small.
Figure 16 Age pyramid of Alberta population in 2001 and 2006
Table 4 Sex ratio in the last 50 years, Canada, provinces and territories